my current scanning process

scanning image

It’s one thing to draw in pen-and-ink, but quite another to reproduce it. Back when I was photocopying everything, I had little control over what I got. I would go to the copy place, try a sample on each available machine, and then use the best one. But that was a long time ago. Since then, it’s all been about scanning.

With line art, one can always just scan 1200dpi bitmap. But early on I found that this made my work muddy and ugly. So I followed Jordan Crane’s advice in Re: A Guide to Reproduction. Basically, he turned me on to the “threshold” command in Photoshop. I would scan at 600dpi greyscale and then adjust the threshold in Photoshop. Yet even this left something to be desired; with my finer ink work, thinner lines got lost. So I started using the “levels” command first and then the using threshold (I may have gotten this step from Jessica Abel and Matt Madden). Adjusting the levels got rid of a lot of pencil marks and helped sharpen the scan so less lines would be lost when I went to threshold. Well, I got a new scanner a few months ago and so was revisiting the whole process. Trying to understand what an “unsharp mask” was I stumbled onto an article about scanning line art by Paul Diamond Blow. Basically, he follows the same process I just outlined, but he adds one extra step: the unsharp mask filter. I’ve started using this method and have been really impressed with the results. The final version looks a lot more like the original art work. The lines are thin and crisp. Hatchwork doesn’t get muddy or lost. I have yet to print a book after using this method, so I guess I can’t give my unmitigated endorsement for this method. But the printouts I’ve been doing at home look good.

So here’s the process:

  • scan in greyscale at 600dpi
  • save as a tiff and open in Photoshop
  • in the layers palette select “Levels” under the “create new fill or adjustment layer” dropdown (the circle with the diagonal line)
  • in the first slider, I set the numbers to about 20 – 1.00 – 130 (this can vary depending on the scan)
  • flatten the image
  • set the image size to 1200dpi
  • under Filter go to Sharpen > Unsharp Mask…
  • set the Amount to 145%, the Radius to 5.0 pixels, and the Threshold to 3 levels
  • then go to Threshold under the same adjustments dropdown as Levels
  • set the Threshold to 110 (this is less than what Photoshop suggests)
  • flatten the image
  • convert back to 600dpi

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